"Some much commend the Boiling of this Liquor as what gives a mighty Strength ; but it must be remembred, that it is much better for some Sorts of Fruits than others : the best Sort of Cyder for Boiling, being what is made of Pippins, Harvey-Apple, and the Bitter-Sweet, a Dorsetshire Apple, whose Juice is much mended by Boiling, especially when kept to two Years old. The way of doing which, is, to boil it as soon as it is pressed, for if it ferments, the Boiling will cause the Spirits to fly away, instead of strengthening it : strain the Juice as it comes from the Press, and in Boiling let it be continually scum'd, and observe the Colour of it as it boils, so as not to boil it longer than till it comes to the Colour of small Beer ; and as soon as it is cold, tunn it, leaving only a small Vent in the Cask, the rest being close stopt, and when you find it begin to bubble out of the Vent, bottle it, only do not make it of Fruit that has been long gather'd. "But it must me remark'd upon this occasion, that as Cyder is apt to contract an ill Flavour for Scent, from the Vessel in which you boil it, it will be your best way to boil it in Tin or an earthen Vessel, that is wide and open at the top, for the more expeditious wasting of the aqueous and phlegmatick part of the Liquor."
M. Chomel (trans. Richard Bradley) Dictionaire Oeconomique vol 1 (1725)
After posting M. Chomel / Richard Bradley’s words of wisdom on Mixtures with Cyder last week, which in volume one of the Dictionaire Oeconomique is entered under ‘B’ for ‘Boiling of Cyder’ rather than ‘C’ for ‘Cyder’, I’ve been wondering what the whole ‘Boiling of Cyder’ thing is about. So I thought I’d take a look.
I’ve now taken a look, and I’m really not sure I’m any the wiser. In fact, I rather suspect that M. Chomel and/or his English translator Richard Bradley had been boiling their cyder – and copiously sampling said boiled cyder – before one of them1The Dictionaire Oeconomique is one of those works that was everso faithfully rendered into English by a translator… who then made “considerable alterations and improvements” to the original. Without admitting which bits he’d amended and improved, naturally. wrote the passage above. It certainly has the feel of “…and another (hic) thing!” in one or two places. But that could just be all that eighteenth century English in action.
I’d guess that boiling the apple juice shortly after pressing would have the effect of evaporating some of the water from the juice, thereby leaving a stronger concentrate of sugars, which in turn would lead to a higher ABV cider? Although wouldn’t you then be in danger of killing off the natural yeasts that are going to aid fermentation? Maybe that’s the source of the “ill Flavour for Scent” that can occur if the cyder goes into the wrong boiling vessel: the wrong sort of yeast taking over? Although a bad smell could just be the result of using a pewter vessel rather than one made of a more neutral tin or earthenware?
As I said, I’m really not any the wiser. How about you? Any ideas? If so, please do feel free to share them, via the comments.
- 1The Dictionaire Oeconomique is one of those works that was everso faithfully rendered into English by a translator… who then made “considerable alterations and improvements” to the original. Without admitting which bits he’d amended and improved, naturally.